wandavision review grief

WandaVision: The Unapologetic Portrayal of Wanda Maximoff’s Grief

If there’s one thing I get invested in, it’s something MCU-related. “Infinity War” was tough. And “Endgame”, well, I bawled like a baby.

Yes, they’re all superhero movies with a bunch of superhero cliches. But building strong arcs is something Marvel does very well. Like, have you forgotten Tony Stark’s character development?

“WandaVision” has opened up a new era for Marvel, and not only to serve as a starting point for Phase 4.

Though I’m tempted to go into all the references and Easter eggs (and there are plenty), I want to look into the way the show explores trauma and loss.

Life in the Post-Snap World  

To recap, Thanos won, and the blip happened. Or the snap, if you will. By the end of “Avengers: Infinity War” half of the world’s population was reduced to dust.

Yet, before the Mad Titan got his hands on the Mind Stone, Wanda had to kill Vision in order to save the universe. With the Time Stone’s ability to reverse time, Thanos brings Vision back just so he can rip the Mind Stone from the android’s head. Finally, he completes his goal of balancing things out.

In “Endgame”, Captain America and the remaining superheroes spent 5 years trying to set things straight. And they do eventually succeed.

Set in the post-snap world, “WandaVision” is the first Marvel project to come out after the COVID-19 pandemic caused delays in many other releases. This Disney+ series revolves around Wanda Maximoff and her life after returning from the blip.

Wanda can use magic, and Vision is an android. That’s not that all that important in this story. The show is part of the MCU. But it works perfectly as an independent narrative of two characters who were never the focal points in previous Marvel movies.

It doesn’t follow the typical rules of superhero storytelling. Wanda’s magic is not the plot device, her inner emotional state is.

Westview: Town Free of Pain and Suffering  

The first two episodes make it difficult to figure out what is happening in “WandaVision”. Across nine episodes, the show takes on the format of classic sitcoms.

You’ve got “The Dick Van Dyke Show”, “I Love Lucy”, “Bewitched”, “Malcolm in the Middle”, “Modern Family” and many more.

The third episode gives us a closer look at the retro sitcom world. When SWORD Agent Monica Rambeau gets expelled from Westview, we realize that the New Jersey town has been under Wanda’s control.

The energy field around town, called the Hex, results from Wanda unleashing her magic after losing Vision. Unable to face reality, she creates her own fake reality where Vision is still alive and where they get to be a family. Unfortunately, all the people living in Westview get pulled into her fantasy as well.

Wanda has been using sitcoms to escape trauma ever since she was a kid as a way to distract herself from the truth.

And honestly, who can blame her? When we experience traumatic events, the brain will do whatever it can to keep us alive. When we can’t cope with something, we try to escape it in our minds.

Losing a Future That’ll Never Be  

When suffering a loss, we look for distractions. It may be vintage sitcoms. It may be something else. It’s a normal response when life takes someone or something from us.

You can never be fully prepared for loss. For someone who’s lost a loved one to dementia, I know that all too well. You’re never ready when it happens for real. And the hardest thing you can never prepare yourself for is the realization that you have lost the future. The future that you wished for but will never get to experience.

We see Wanda falling on her knees in the exact spot where she was supposed to get old with Vision. The place where they were supposed to have their future together.

The Resistance to Work Through Pain  

Wanda creates Vision from her own memories. Their two sons as well. She even gets her brother back (wasn’t her doing, but all right). Yet, the cracks begin to show, and she does whatever she can to keep the show running.

The happy illusion around her is falling apart. Vision even tries to get on the other side of the Hex to warn SWORD. So Wanda stretches the magic barrier to keep him inside. She does everything in her power to delay the grieving process.

In episode 7, which is based on Modern Family, Wanda keeps telling us she is fine. She’s fine. She’s fine. But, she isn’t. She doesn’t know how things got this far, and she can’t fix it.

Suppressing heavy emotions leads to a never-ending loop of anger, confusion, and guilt. And, of course, loss sucks. We don’t want to feel it. There’s no way around it. Believe me, if there was, we would have figured it out by now.

Life isn’t enjoyable when you’re sad and don’t want to get out of bed. Yet, those days are necessary. They bring you closer to healing.

It’s Okay to Miss Someone Who Is No Longer Here  

A Marvel show can’t go without a villain. Agatha Harkness has been manipulating Wanda, hoping to steal her magic. And she gets one of the best lines of the show:

The only way forward is back.

As Agatha guides Wanda through some of her most traumatic memories, we see where Wanda’s attachment to sitcoms comes from. She used to watch it with her family before her parents died.

The most striking exchange happens when Wanda looks at a memory of herself and Vision discussing grief. Yeah, that’s the scene everyone’s talking about. Let’s first talk about Wanda’s words.

Honestly, it may be the best description of dealing with loss I’ve ever seen on TV. It comes at the right time and resonates so goddamn well.

It portrays the tiredness that comes with mourning. It doesn’t depict grief as something that you’ll get through if you stay positive or how you should find solace in knowing that we’ll all be together in heaven one day. It’s a process that takes time and patience. And it can sometimes take years.

At her lowest, Wanda tells Vision that the only thing she wants is to see Pietro again. Ultimately, that’s the truth about losing people. We will always want them back. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

It Really Isn’t All Sorrow  

The episode eight’s writing. Spectacular. I’m speechless. Speechless, lying in a puddle of tears.

Wanda and Vision’s dialogue comes with a simple, most beautiful line ever written.

What is grief, if not love persevering?

An ending always puts things into perspective. Whether it is someone dying, a breakup, losing a job, or a home. It changes you. It stays with you. Especially the parts that made you love people and how they loved you.

Losing Vision changed Wanda in more ways than one. In the last episode, she accepts that change. She accepts the new reality. She does that by sacrificing her family so the people of Westview can walk free.

Vision is her love. He’ll always be. And as long as there is love, nothing ever dies, does it?   

Marvel Is Going Places

I’ve got a few laughs. I’ve got a few tears. Okay, more than a few. Most importantly, I felt seen and understood. And that makes a great TV show even greater. The Marvel fan in me approves.

Paul Bettany is a treasure that needs to be protected at all costs. And the Scarlet Witch is my new favorite Marvel badass, though I’ll never get over Black Widow. Can’t wait to see what the future has in store for both Wanda and Vision.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to catch The Falcon and The Winter Soldier pilot episode.


Cover image: by Jonatan Lewczuk on Unsplash